News: Browsers Hit A Legal Minefield

 From the This Could Change Everything Or Mean Nothing Dept come reports that Microsoft (and presumably others) may have to redesign their web browsers after a US court found that Internet Explorer infringes another company’s software patent. The BBC reports that the World Wide Web Consortium, the body responsible for web standards, also released a statement saying that Microsoft “will very soon be making changes to its Internet Explorer browser software in response to this ruling.” The patent concerned describes a way of “automatically invoking [an] external application” and “providing interaction and display of embedded objects” inside a “hypermedia document”.
 
It’s not easy to figure out what happens next. Like all software patents, the BBC says, it is written in a complex legalistic style which makes it hard to determine just what it covers. However there is a general consensus within the web community that it would include clicking on a link to load a Flash movie or a video player, controlling an external application through a web interface and downloading and running programs inside a web page.
This means that core web technologies, including plugins for multimedia websites, Java applets, and even Microsoft’s own ActiveX controls, will be affected. Ouch.